Monday, May 07, 2018

The untitled diverse multi-cultural multi-camera family pilot

Every year there seems to be a trend in network comedy pilots. This year it’s strange blended families filled with as much diversity as the projects will allow.

Lots of single parents with complications. Lots of large families in various combinations. Lots of ethnic families. And then there are blended ethnic families.

There are unlikely pairings of single parents that “become” families. There are blended cultures trying to become families.

And of course there’s the family member who moved away but now must return to the family.

And most of them are “loosely based on the writer or star’s life.”

Many sound ridiculously complicated or with large casts. A few have narrators. That always scares me. When you have so many characters that you can’t let their behavior describe them, when you have to tell the audience who they are and what their place in the series is that always signals trouble to me.

A number of them are clearly just vehicles for their stars. The family premise is just an afterthought.

Nothing sounded particularly original.

Which is why, execution is so critical. For all I know four or five of these pilots are great. They’re smartly written, perfectly cast, with fresh looks at familiar situations. It could be a banner crop of pilots, or another year of 9JKL’s.

Upfronts are next week and we’ll know soon enough. At least it’s nice to see that multi-cams appear to be back in favor (until none of them are picked up).

The irony is I don’t think you could sell FRIENDS today. Six white kids who go through their twenties together – not a chance.

15 comments :

McAlvie said...

9JKL - it had possibilities with that great cast, but mostly you just find both the characters and the situation really annoying. And you are right about trends, Ken. Rather than figure out why a show is popular, they just try to duplicate the surface stuff.

Rock Golf said...

The other uncommon commonality, at least on ABC pilots, are people having mid-life career changes. It's like 2 out of every three shows has a middle-age person becoming a rookie cop or firefighter, or lawyer.
No middle-aged hookers yet, but that'll happen...

Brian Phillips said...

It all has to do with trends. I collect Fall Preview TV Guides.

At one time, there were no less than 26 Westerns on the air.
One year there were three shows with Irish leads.
One year was the year of the Black little people (Webster, Diff'rent Strokes)
For a long time, it was hard to keep a marriage together, but divorce was taboo, so they just killed folks off (Doris Day Show, Courtship of Eddie's Father).

Interracial relationships are the new Black, Brown & White.

After all the years of people getting denied because of their skin color, (Joby Baker(!) played a Mexican cook, to go waaay back), I'm not going to shed too many tears about "Friends" not being a viable pitch. We may see the day that they have the "right" six, but insist on getting someone of color. It's about race and it's not.

And for the record, before the storm hits, I didn't take what you said as racist, I don't think you are and even though I cannot act as a spokesperson for my race (the dues are EXTREMELY high and then there's the swimsuit competition...), I'm Black and I understood what you meant.

VP81955 said...

"Belle du Jour," the sitcom!

Filippo said...

Someone should try a show about nothingness.

Matt said...

Your comment about Friends makes me wonder. Could it have been successful with Jimmie Smits, Grace Park and Blair Underwood? Did it really rely on them being white?

blinky said...

Recast FRIENDS today?!??! What a fun idea.
Rachel.........Amy Schumer
Ross............Adam Sandler
Chandler.....Donald Glover
Monica........Lena Waithe
Joey............Kanye West
Phoebe.......Sophia Vergara

Tom said...

Re: voiceovers, I've been watching the Arrested Development remix and long sections of it are virtually an audiobook. Despite Ron Howard having possibly the most agreeable voice in Hollywood, it starts to grate.

Dr Loser said...

@VP:

""Belle du Jour," the sitcom!"

I so want to watch that. In French. With sub-titles. And comedy -- the original was too up-it's-own-fundament, really. (Mind you, Bunuel would be the perfect show-runner, if only he were still alive.)

To the OP: this is all just Friends clones all over again, isn't it? A Jew, a Greek-American Princess, a Canadian Preppie, an Italian Stereotype, a Jewess, a ditsy hippie child (could self-identify as a Jewess, but whatever).

The only thing here is that Friends had a stellar cast and a setting that was just about plausible enough for the comedy to bounce around. The "diversity" was practically irrelevant (apart from the wonderful "Hannukah Armadillo" episode which, well, rather emphasises the point here.

This is top-down construction -- "We need authenticity here!"

What it should be is bottom-up construction. "We've got a setting in a night court in New York. Get me an interesting mix of characters!"

Frederick Herman "Freddy" Jones said...

Ken;

I read your post with great interest.

I'm having a bit of trouble understanding the point of this particular post.

Are you saying that comedies should not reflect today's growing trend of blended families with diverse backgrounds?

Are you saying that too many characters can spoil the pilot?

Are you saying you're surprised and shocked at a comedy being tailored for a star?

Are you saying you lament that Friends could not be produced today, or are you saying it's nice to see the entertainment community seems to have "evolved" past those types of shows?

Are you saying that the "family" is a bad or overused as a basis for a modern sitcom?

One thing you did say clearly was, "Nothing sounded particularly original." Could you toss out a premise or two that you think is original and reflects the type of show you would like to see?

You mention not seeing any of these pilots and adding that it's all in the execution. I believe you are right, but I also would add that it's always been in the execution. Ideas are not in short supply -- talented people to make it all come together at all levels is the key.



Mike Bloodworth said...

Ken, as you know I'm of mixed race. I know first hand how hard it was to get parts if you weren't white or at least had a "mainstream" look. More diversity in show business is a positive thing as long as people are qualified and not just place holders. But, ironically as much as you and the rest of Hollywood LOATHE and DESPISE Donald Trump, in a way, he's partially responsible for the current push toward more diversity in films and T.V . Let us not forget that the so called, "#OSCARS SO WHITE" happend during the Obama administration. But, so many lib... excuse me, "progressives" believe that the President is racist that they're now going out of their way to show the world how un-Trump-like they are. But, regardless of how white or ethnic the pilots are, the majority of them will suck. Take advantage of it while you can.
M.B.

Dr Loser said...

Sorry, Mike, but if (for whatever well-intentioned reason) you produce a sit-com that is painfully unfunny, then you're doing your cause (whatever your cause is) a grotesque disservice.

Funny first, message second. And once you've got the funny, there are plenty of "ethnic" actors out there who can nail funny.

One of the funniest sketch shows over here was the all-Indian "Goodness Gracious Me!" It worked because it was funny. It worked because it inverted stereotypes. It worked, in short, because it was intelligent. But it didn't work because some idiot marketroid in network TV shoe-horned their no doubt sincere beliefs on it. It was just ... funny.

So, if any of these shows are funny, excellent. If not, they're just fuel for Trump's fire. Which is hardly likely to be a welcome thing.

Cap'n Bob said...

What's 9JKL?

Coram Loci said...

It's a turn off because it's contrived.

If it's funny, I may hear about it, and the tune in. But at the start I see gimmick as vehicle for something other humor, namely, "a very special episode," "the more you know," and "knowing is half the battle."

Myles Warden said...

See: Jay-Z's Moonlight video. They literally recast it. Superb casting too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCSh48OlvMo